Butte brainstorms on jobs

About 160 community leaders, merchants and business people harnessed their collective brainpower Wednesday as they traded ideas about the
economic future of Butte.

By Leslie McCartney of The Montana Standard

The three-hour “ Jobs For Butte” seminar gave residents the opportunity to comment on several sectors of Butte life in an effort to lay the
groundwork for an economic development plan.

That plan will map out ways to deal with the struggling Butte economy and its ripple effect on other areas of community life.
“ Our future is about teamwork; one person cannot do it alone,” said Kathy Fasso, Butte-Silver Bow Economic Development director who spoke on
behalf of Chief Executive Judy Jacobson. “ We must work together as a community.”

Keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs admon ished the crowd to keep working toward its goals and reminded that the current adminis tration put
economic development at the fore front of state issues.
“ It is a priority,” he said. “ We face it every day; we measure it everyday.”
Ohs added that economic development takes time and that failure is part of finding success.

“ You can put many irons in the fire before you pull one out that is truly hot,” he said.
Before becoming lieutenant governor, Ohs was a familiar face in southwest Montana, where he worked as a Harrison rancher and did economic
development work.

“ You have the opportunity to make a difference,” he said.

After Ohs spoke, participants broke into work groups to address concerns about several topics — including technology, medical services, tourism,
transportation, education, small business and more.

Animated discussions arose from the group sessions. For example, as participants dis cussed infrastructure, it became apparent that Butte is not
seeing the construction growth or population growth seen in the neighboring communities of Helena, Bozeman and Missoula.
Participants said that a big hurdle — at least in the housing market and attracting new residents — is the blighted areas of town, vacant buildings and
run-down neighborhoods.

“ We have failed to invest in Central Butte or older parts of town,” said Bob Corbett, who works closely with the National Affordable Housing Network
in Central Butte.
Participants also called for cleaning the town, selling Butte as a recreation destina tion and including families — and making the town attractive to
youth — in market ing plans.

The comments and insights gathered Wednesday will be used to fashion a docu ment that will be massaged to form a blue print for the community.
The document will also be submitted by Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development to the Department of Commerce and can be cited as
the county goes after federal grant dollars.

Butte Local Development Corp., Headwaters and city-county government sponsored the seminar. It is the first such meeting since 1995. Several
similar meet ings were held in the late 1980s and early 1990s following the shutdown of the Butte mines.

After the afternoon session, Butte Local Development Corp. Executive Director Evan Barrett pronounced the meeting pos itive.
He said a common theme — of spiffing up the city — emerged in several of the sessions.

— Reporter Leslie McCartney may be reached via e-mail at lestlie.mccartney(at)(at)

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